By Kate Merrill


BEDFORD, N.H. (CBS) — If you look around the Sheff house in Bedford, New Hampshire, there are boys on devices pretty much everywhere. You’ll find Jake on his laptop doing his homework from middle school, Ryan on the couch looking at videos and then Zach, the youngest, playing games on his phone laying on the kitchen floor.

If mom, Emily, had to monitor all of those phones, she says it would take her all day. “It’s nearly impossible,” she said. “I think my son showed me yesterday a thousand texts that he missed in just a couple of hours because of group texts.”

From the “Be Present” sign in the kitchen, it is clear this is a family mindful of too much screen time, but finding the perfect balance is tricky.

“It’s easy to say ‘No internet, no electronics,’ but that’s not the reality of the world we live in,” Emily said.

That’s why Emily and her husband, Eric, decided to try Bark. It’s a service that monitors all texts, social media and video content for all three of the boys. It notifies them if it detects anything that suggests bullying, drug use, even depression or anxiety.

Developers say that because the app monitors tens of thousands of teens, it can pick up on trends and understands the way teens communicate.

“They are misspelling words on purpose. They are using teen text slang and they are using emojis and memes to convey things,” explained Titania Jordan, who serves as the company’s chief parenting officer.

You would think kids might hate the idea of Big Brother watching, but the Sheff boys don’t seem to mind. “It doesn’t bug me that much,” Jake said.

That might be due to the fact that Bark keeps parents out of the daily details, which preserves the teens’ privacy.

“We just want to make sure we are able to capture the information that we need to have discussions about,” she said.

There haven’t been any serious issues for the Sheff boys, but Emily and Eric say they have had some important conversations. And if something does pop up, they know they’ll be on it immediately.

“If you find out months later, it could be too late,” Eric said.

Jordan said Bark has notified law enforcement of 16 credible school shooting threats and over 400 online predators. It costs $9 a month.

Kate Merrill

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